When Joan Baez first got up to perform at the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass., 50 years ago, she says she just opened her mouth and sang.
Now she finds herself marveling over a golden anniversary as one of folk music’s most enduring and consistently potent performers.
“Y’know, back then my idea of the future was the following Wednesday,” says the Staten Island-born Baez, 67, who played a benefit for Club 47, now Club Passim, earlier this year. “I wasn’t planning a career. It all sort of happened, and I’m astounded it’s still happening — astounded and delighted.”
Baez has commemorated her continuing legacy with her 24th album, “Day After Tomorrow,” which came out in September and was produced by Steve Earle, with songs by Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Patty Griffin as well as Earle.
The Americana Music Association gave Baez its Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award at its annual festival and conference in Nashville, and a PBS American Masters documentary is also in the works and is expected to air in 2009. Baez, meanwhile, has no plans to stop, although she’s conscious that there may come a time when that may happen.
“People say, ‘Don’t ever stop singing,’ and I can picture myself in a wheelchair, still doing it,” Baez says. “As long as this voice is working, it seems as though I owe it to the voice to keep going. To get a gift like this is to use it, you know?
“So I’ll probably stop when the voice is having a more difficult time than I want to deal with. Pete Seeger can keep going; the point was never his voice. But the point with me is the voice. Keeping it tuned up takes a lot of time, and I’m thrilled to put in that time, as long as I feel like the results are worth it. And so far they have been.”
Joan Baez performs at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 10) at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $26-50. Call (734) 668-8463 or visit www.michtheater.org.
Send your thoughts and comments to